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Commotion Deployment Report: Allied Media Conference 2012

Published:  February 5, 2013
Allied Media Conference 2012.

A PDF of this report can be dowloaded here.

Since 1999, the Allied Media Conference (AMC) has gathered an array of community organizers, activists, technologists, artists, educators, policy wonks and others to collaboratively design and explore media-based strategies for transformative social movements. The 2012 conference provided an opportunity to test Commotion in an indoor conference setting with hundreds of simultaneous users.

Participants in the AMC use Internet access to enhance their experience while at the conference. In each session, they take notes collaboratively via a cloud-based service. Participants comment on the workshops on the AMC website and via social media, generating over 6000 Tweets.

Tidepools allowed anyone connected to MagicNet to map comments and alerts within the conference spaces.
PirateBoxes allowed people to connect wirelessly and easily share conference documentation, including photo, audio and video files.
The MediaLab was a space for attendees to learn media-making skills, collaborative design, innovative communications tactics and technology building skills.

Seeking to expand the connective and interactive potential of the conference, the Open Technology Institute worked with conference organizers from Allied Media Projects to install a wireless mesh network providing conference attendees with improved Internet access and a suite of collaborative local applications and resources. The mesh network, MagicNet, successfully provided network access and interactive tools to hundreds of attendees over four days throughout the conference facilities.

Once connected to MagicNet, attendees had access to several digital resources at the AMC, including the session browser, PirateBox applications, the AMC-FM live radio and a Tidepools instance. Tidepools is a social mapping platform OTI has developed to run on a local wireless network. At the AMC, attendees could use it to see and discuss what was happening at any given time in the various conference rooms.

MagicNet provided a total of 9 access points across three buildings (shown in the diagram below). Mesh over Ethernet was used within the McGregor Conference Center to connect six access points, which were connected to the Art Education classrooms using a wireless bridge across the courtyard. The Art Education classrooms were networked internally with two wireless mesh access points. A separate wireless access point was available within the Community Arts Auditorium and was not connected to the other parts of the network.

The 2012 MagicNet provided superior connectivity to the Internet compared to the Wayne State University’s (WSU) campus wireless network, according to conference organizers. In previous conferences, the WSU wireless network was not able to handle the number of simultaneous users during the conference weekend, and AMC attendees and Allied Media Projects (AMP) staff reported problems logging on to the WSU network, frequent disconnects from the network, and slow speeds.

Allied Media Conference 2013

OTI and AMP are preparing to improve on the AMC MagicNet for the 2013 Allied Media Conference. We will retain the successful network plan, but Detroit residents who have undergone Commotion installation training will build the network rather than OTI staff. We are adding new features to the Tidepools event documentation tool that will incorporate real time feeds from social media and more ways to use the local server. The AMC continues to offer a prime opportunity to test Commotion’s capacity to connect a gathering of people to the global Internet and to each other via locally-hosted services.

Photo credits: Vanessa Miller and the AMC.

MagicNet Network Diagram

MagicNet was built using nine access points running Commotion mesh firmware, one application server, the Ethernet network available within McGregor and a wireless bridge across the courtyard to the Art Education Classrooms to create a mesh network connected to the Internet and running interactive local applications. Because McGregor has internet access through Ethernet ports, each of those nodes acted as internet gateways. The Art Education Classrooms are not wired, so that space accessed the Internet across the wireless bridge. Wireless Internet Access was provided within the Auditorium, but that space was not connected to the mesh.


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